Saint John of Las Vegas

Saint John of Las Vegas

Some pictures can't be done justice by a simple caption.

(2007) Black Comedy (IndieVest) Steve Buscemi, Sarah Silverman, Romany Malco, Peter Dinklage, Emmanuelle Chirqui, John Cho, Tim Blake Nelson, Matthew McDuffie, Ben Zeller, Aviva, Danny Trejo, Avu, Josh Berry, Isabel Archuleta. Directed by Hue Rhodes

Sometimes, the most expedient solution to facing one’s demons is to run away. It is also one of life’s truths that the easy way is generally not the right way to deal with problems.

John Alighieri (Buscemi) has a particular demon – gambling. He has lost everything due to his addiction and is desperately trying to find himself a “normal life” and by fleeing the gambling dens of Sin City may have found it in the auto insurance company he finds employment at in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

But what is insurance but a different kind of gambling? And although John has found himself a new girlfriend – the effervescent Jill (Silverman) who is far prettier than John could have possibly hoped for – he still finds himself in need of cash, so his boss Mr. Townsend (Dinklage) gives him a mission for his sins . Okay, that’s a different allegory.

He sends John out into the field to investigate the claim of one Tasty D. Lite (Chirqui), a stripper in Las Vegas. Accompanying John is Virgil (Malco), a taciturn man who is one of the company’s top investigators.

Into the desert they go, where they meet a strange collection of nutjobs and oddballs, like Smitty the Carnival’s Flaming Man whose fire suit has malfunctioned, going off every twenty seconds or so, turning him into an inferno. Smitty has to wait until the fuel is exhausted but has a desperate craving for a cigarette, which isn’t exactly fire-retardant.

Then there’s Militant Ned (Nelson), a nudist with an automatic weapon dead set on preventing anybody from entering his land. And Tasty herself, who is in a wheelchair after her accident; John asks her for a lapdance which she gamely provides.

The whole point, as Virgil informs John, is to find a way to deny the claim. As John discovers, a normal life may be a whole lot less fulfilling and honest than the one he was trying to avoid, one which he meets head-on in the shopping marts and casinos of Las Vegas.

First time filmmaker Rhodes loosely based his script on the Inferno of Dante Alighieri, and all the temptations show up in one form or another – some more obliquely than others. The problem here is that for a black comedy, there’s far more black than comedy. Some of the bits are pretty funny (the Flaming Man bit for example) while others are mere head-scratchers.

Buscemi is perfectly cast, playing a man who is not entirely sin-free who is in a constant state of confusion. Nobody does the guilty conscience like Buscemi. Dinklage as always strong in his role, playing the money-grubbing and bullying boss to perfection. Silverman, also as always, is wasted in a role that plays on her sex appeal but doesn’t use any of her comedic talents.

This is a wildly uneven movie, well-done in some parts and horrible in others. The concept itself is interesting, but when you think about it, how many people know their Dante well enough to really figure out what’s going on, or more importantly, care? In your case, it’s probably a wash; Buscemi is worth checking out but there is little more than that out there that will either make any sense or worse still, elicit any laughter.

WHY RENT THIS: Buscemi, Malco and Dinklage are solid and the quirky characters that show up throughout the film are at least entertaining. 

WHY RENT SOMETHING ELSE: Wildly uneven; some of the bits work like magic, others fall completely flat.

FAMILY VALUES: There is plenty of bad language and a little bit of nudity.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: Spike Lee was one of the producers for the film.


BOX OFFICE PERFORMANCE: $111,731 on an unreported production budget; I’m thinking that the movie was not profitable.




New Releases for the Week of March 19, 2010

The Bounty Hunter

Gerard Butler & Jennifer Aniston wonder why the critics are shooting at them.


(Columbia) Gerard Butler, Jennifer Aniston, Jason Sudeikis, Christine Baranski, Dorian Missick, Joel Marsh Garland. Directed by Andy Tennant

Life is good for bounty hunter Milo Boyd. He’s finally getting a few breaks his way after years of being down and out and to top it all off, he gets the assignment of a lifetime – to bring his ex-wife to jail after she skips out on her bail. Nothing could make his heart gladder, until he discovers that she is on the run for her life after blowing the lid off of a murder cover-up and now he’s embroiled in her mess too. Ain’t love grand?

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG-13 (for sexual content including suggestive comments, language and some violence)

Diary of a Wimpy Kid

(20th Century Fox) Zachary Gordon, Chloe Moretz, Steve Zahn, Devon Bostick. Of all the dangerous situations that humans can face, there is nothing more deadly, more soul-crushing, more demoralizing than…middle school. At least, that’s the way it seems to Greg Heffley, an imaginative and bright young boy who is trying to navigate the treacherous waters of that institution. This family comedy is based on the first book from the series of illustrated novels by Jeff Kinney.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: PG (for some rude humor and language)

Repo Men

(Universal) Jude Law, Forrest Whitaker, Liev Schreiber, RZA. In the near future, prosthetic organs are widely available…if you an afford them. For those that can’t, there are payment plans but God help you if you miss your payments because the corporate bean counters will send the repo men after you to take back their property, and trust me you won’t find any mercy in them. Not even for one of their own, who finds himself on the run from his own co-workers – including his best friend since childhood who knows him better than anyone. He will have to use all his wits to take down the corporation…before his heart is repossessed.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for strong bloody violence, grisly images, language and some sexuality/nudity)

Saint John of Las Vegas

(IndieVest) Steve Buscemi, Sarah Silverman, Romany Malco, Peter Dinklage. A compulsive gambler escapes the clutches of his disease and finds work as a claims adjustor for an auto insurance company in Albuquerque, salving his demons with lotto scratchers. When he is assigned to accompany the top fraud debunker for the company to investigate a dubious accident near Las Vegas, he sees an opportunity for promotion despite his misgivings about being so close to Sin City once again. With a romance developing into something potentially lasting and an assortment of freaks and geeks to navigate through, this may be a lot more than a tarnished saint could have bargained for.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Rating: R (for language, and some nudity)